Crack The Sky – These Big, Lively Choruses Are a Thrill

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

Records with Huge Choruses that Are Good for Testing

The best vintage rock recordings usually have something going for them that few recordings made after the ’70s do: their choruses get big and loud, yet stay smooth, natural and uncongested. 

We’ve mentioned it in countless listings. So many records have — to one degree or another — harsh, hard, gritty, shrill, congested choruses. When the choruses get loud they become unpleasant, and here at Better Records you lose a lot of points when that happens.

This recording, more specifically this pressing of this recording, has exceptionally big, smooth and natural choruses for many of the songs. Rangers at Midnight comes to mind immediately. Credit our man Shelly Yakus below for really getting the choruses right on this album.

Fun tip: Listen for the Elton John-like piano chords on the first track. Can you name that song? (Hint: it’s on Tumbleweed Connection.)

Choruses Are Key

Watch out for too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression or distortion, there will be too many upper midrange elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space, resulting in congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens. Consequently, the upper midrange “space” does not get overwhelmed with musical information.

Also watch for edge on the vocals, which is of course related to the issues above. Most copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the band wants to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels.

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – It Took Us Until 2011 to Resolve the Studio Ambience

More of the Music of Tom Petty

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Tom Petty

This commentary was written way back in 2011 after playing the best sounding copy of the album we had ever heard up to that point.

For those who may be interested, we offer some unsolicited audio advice toward the end of our review regarding what kind of stereo is not appropriate for Tom Petty’s albums..

Our story from 2011:

This Minty looking Shelter original LP has THE TWO BEST SOUNDING SIDES we have ever heard for this album! It’s a freak in the world of Tom Petty records, which tend to have NO good sounding sides.

And this is the band’s MASTERPIECE to boot, with four or five of their best and Hardest Rockin’ songs.

Both sides come flyin’ out of the gate with straight ahead rockers that have the Big Sound we go crazy for here at Better Records.

Side one was so unbelievable that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) rating.

Of course the sound is punchy and alive — with Hot Stampers, what else would they be? — but where did all that studio ambience come from?

Simple: the best copies have the RESOLUTION that’s missing from the average pressing. You know the kind of run-of-the-mill LP I’m talking about: punchy but crude and just a bit too aggressive to really enjoy.

Oh, but not this bad boy. Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a Top Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. (Check out that drum sound!)

If you can play this one good and loud you will be shocked at how good it sounds.

I’ve paraphrased a bit of commentary from Aja for this listing where we discussed the kind of changes we needed to go through here at Better Records to make it possible to play a hard-drivin’ rock record like this one and get it to sound the way we always wanted it to.

We Now Return to The Revolution, Which Is Already in Progress

As audiophiles we all know that when it sounds this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more. We had to make quite a few improvements in the system before that reality hit home. The third pair of Hallographs and the new EAR 324P phono stage we brought on board since the last shootout made a HUGE difference in the sound. Aja is now without a doubt a real DEMO DISC, and I wouldn’t want to live without it. It’s a THRILL to finally hear this album sound the way it should have sounded, but for various and sundry reasons never quite did.

A World of Sound Awaits You

That’s what the Recent Revolutionary Changes in Audio link (seen at left) is all about. If you haven’t taken advantage of all the new technologies that make LP playback dramatically better than it was even five years ago, Aja won’t do what it’s supposed to do. Trust me, there’s a world of sound lurkng in the grooves of the best Aja’s that simply cannot be revealed without Disc Doctor cleaning fluids, Aurios, Hallographs, top quality front ends, big speakers and all the rest. Our playback system is designed to play records like Aja with all the size, weight and power of the real thing. We live for this kind of Big Rock sound here at Better Records. We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to play records like this with Maximum Fidelity, secure in the knowledge that a system that can play Aja can play ANYTHING.

Substitute You’re Gonna Get It! for the word Aja in the paragraphs above and you will get what I’m driving at.

Any system that can’t play a good Tom Petty album has no business being owned by anyone, let alone an audiophile.

That meaty bottom end, those perfectly distorted guitars — find equipment that can play that stuff right and buy it.

Don’t settle for some wimpy audiophile bullshit system.

Get a system that lets you play the music YOU love, not the music your stereo dealer likes to play in his showroom.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Why You’re Gonna Get It Won’t Sound Right on Any System that Looks Like This

Making Audio Progress 

Duke Ellington – Midnight In Paris / Ellington Fantasies

More Duke Ellington

More Big Band Recordings

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  • You’ll find INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this Harmony reissue LP
  • Both of these sides have plenty of Tubey Magic – they’re fuller, more musical and more natural than all the other copies we played in our shootout
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality Columbia sound from 1962 and reasonably quiet surfaces combine for an immersive listening experience
  • Originally released as Midnight In Paris under the Columbia label in 1962, it was reissued as Ellington Fantasies under Harmony beginning in 1967
  • The original is very rare, but the good news there is that it doesn’t sound as good as our good reissues on the Black Label, which works out great for everybody

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Eric Clapton – Self-Titled

More Eric Clapton

More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish on this early UK Polydor pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Man, what a revelation to hear this old favorite sound so rich and open – you’ll have a VERY difficult time finding one that sounds this good lying around in your local record store’s bins, that’s for sure
  • Spaciousness, richness and freedom from grit and grain are key to the best pressings, and here you will find all three
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Throughout the album, Clapton turns out concise solos that de-emphasize his status as guitar god, even when they display astonishing musicality and technique.”

This is not your usual Clapton album, and that’s a good thing because most Clapton albums are full of filler. Not so here — almost every song is good, and many are superb.

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Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

More Roxy Music 

More Brian Eno

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, For Your Pleasure has to be considered a Must Own Title of theirs from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Steely Dan – Testing for Energy with Green Earrings

More of the Music of Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for The Royal Scam

The first two tracks on side two tell you everything you need to know about the sound. Most copies are going to be aggressive. There’s an edge to Fagen’s vocals. It’ll become especially apparent when the backing vocals come in on the line “The rings of rare design.”

If the sound is too midrangy and edgy, you simply do not have a good copy. You will probably not find the experience particularly enjoyable. Rather than finding yourself lost in the music, you may find yourself wondering what the fuss was all about when this album came out.

On a musical note, it’s songs like this one and the two that follow that make me realize how ENERGETIC an album this is. It’s actually the last high energy Steely Dan album, second only in that respect to Countdown To Ecstasy.

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“Reality has a surprising amount of detail”

John Salvatier has written a very interesting essay. It’s not short but I think it is well worth the time it will take you to read it.

The parallels to records should be clear to anyone who has spent much time on this blog. Those of us who have run record experiments by the thousands have learned to accept that identical looking LPs can vary dramatically in their sound quality. Even two sides of a single record are often very different sounding.

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Marty Robbins – By The Time I Get To Phoenix

More Marty Robbins

  • By The Time I Get To Phoenix finally returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this original Columbia 360 Stereo LP
  • Both sides here are rich, tubey, clear and present with wonderfully full strings, breathy vocals, and a solid bottom end
  • This one features a mixture of originals and covers – a showcase for Marty’s tremendous range and ability to cross musical genres

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Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

More Jimi Hendrix

More Rock Classics

  • A superb copy of Electric Ladyland with roughly solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides of this UK import
  • Forget the Track originals – they can’t hold a candle to the Hot Stamper reissues like the one we are offering here
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and the Tubey Magical richness of analog are key to the best sound
  • 5 stars: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jimi and his band, this UK import of his 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including “Crosstown Traffic,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on.

Ready to go on a trip? You’ve come to the right place. While the sound is not Demo Quality on every track, the acid-drenched soundscapes created by Jimi and producer Eddie Kramer are certainly going to be exciting to the kind of audiophile who still digs Classic Rock. Unfortunately, most copies are missing a lot of the magic — the space, the tubes, the ambience, the size, the weight.

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Bob Dylan – Leave It Dry, Or Add Some Reverb?

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else, on some tracks the mono pressing sounds like a demo.

It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully.

The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself?

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in mono, click here.

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in stereo, click here.

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